Car lovers gather for a good cause

Concours d'Elegance benefits those with disabilities

Posted 6/8/14

A panel of veteran car enthusiasts waxed nostalgic during a special evening that heralded the arrival of this year's Colorado Concours …

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Car lovers gather for a good cause

Concours d'Elegance benefits those with disabilities

Posted

A panel of veteran car enthusiasts waxed nostalgic during a special evening that heralded the arrival of this year's Colorado Concours d'Elegance & Exotic Sports Car Show, held June 8 at Arapahoe Community College.

The Friday prior to the main event, guest judges Dennis Little, Jim Stranberg and Denise McCluggage visited Audi Denver on South Broadway for a reception in their honor.

“It's a lot of work, but it gives younger people an opportunity to get involved, and maybe see things they've never seen before,” Dennis Little, president of the Santa Fe Concorso, said of concourse events in general.

Little spent 30 years as a designer with General Motors.

“It was a dream job. Most of the time when it was quitting time, you didn't ever want to go home,” he said.

Much of the conversation focused on the preservation vs. restoration debate brought into the spotlight in January, when a barn car brought in about $500,000 more than its restored counterpart at the Gooding & Co. auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. The clunker 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe: sold for $1.9 million, while its pristine twin brought $1.4 million.

Stephen Bell, owner of Classic Investments, said from the audience that he doesn't think every car needs to be restored, and as the number of cars available to restore decline, the price of barn cars will continue to rise.

“I think a preservation car will win Pebble Beach within five years,” he said, referring to the granddaddy of all concourse events in California.

But Little said restoration honors the history of the car.

“I think you should take it back to the pristine condition that the proud new owner drove it out of the dealership in,” he said.

“It doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever,” agreed Stranberg. “There's maybe a reason for keeping it that way if it's all original or if you have a really good car. … But a car that's just falling apart like that Mercedes, it needs to be restored.”

Stranberg has spent most of his career since 1974 specializing in restoring Bugattis, originally a French manufacturer but now owned by Volkswagen.

“It's a thing of beauty. It's a rolling piece of art,” said Stranberg.

McCluggage, a founding editor of AutoWeek magazine, joked that she thought she herself would be a candidate for preservation, but it turned out she needed a total restoration. No wonder, given her life of adventure as a race-car driver, skier and sports journalist.

McCluggage won best in her class and 10 overall at Florida's Sebring International Raceway in 1961, when lots of tracks banned women. But she was determined to impress her new friend, jazz singer Allen Eager, who she met skiing. When he said he'd always wanted to be a race-car driver, she sold her Porsche and bought a Ferrari, and off they went.

“I was into fulfilling men's fantasies insofar as I was able,” she said. … “I looked at him cowering in the corner, and he said, `You're trying to kill me.' Well, I wasn't. Not then, but later.”

When the pair was asked what they would do to top that feat, McCluggage said that Eager replied, “I'm going to teach her to play the saxophone, and her first gig is Carnegie Hall.”

Her comment on the preservation debate could well be said about herself.

“It's rather moving to see something that has managed to survive its rather rough life well,” she said.

BREAKOUT BOX

The Colorado Concours d'Elegance & Exotic Sports Car Show, held June 8 at Arapahoe Community College, benefits Ability Connection Colorado, serving people with disabilities. The organization served more than 40,000 Coloradans with disabilities and their families last year. It offers inclusive educational opportunities, pathways to the personal satisfaction of employment and support that allows people to thrive, according to the website.

“Our goal is to identify every individual's unique abilities and further their personal journey towards realizing their human potential,” it reads. “In life, no one is defined by what they can't do. Together, we can do so much more than we can't.”

Their programs include Creative Options for children of all abilities, Employment Works, Citizens for Patient Safety, Empower Colorado for families with children with mental illness, Faith in Action, Guardianship Alliance of Colorado, Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program, JP Prescription Drug Awareness Foundation and Parent to Parent of Colorado.

For more information, visit www.abilityconnectioncolorado.org.

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